Over the past several school years, we’ve seen an increasing number of instances during the school day involving trespassers on Christ the King grounds, specifically our field area. Some of these trespassers have organized fights on our field; they have also shoved, elbowed, cursed at, and challenged our teachers to fight. Worse, our school students have beheld and received similar and other forms of harassment. Some of these trespassers engage in questionable behaviors. These occasions have forced teachers and our students to vacate our own field area. Trespassers include primarily high school aged young adults, but also middle-aged adults, and even older adults. When encountered and asked to leave, many of these trespassers respond rudely or even stubbornly refuse to depart. We are a welcoming community but we still operate a school. Our grounds are not, in fact, public property.
Mr. Segrell, our school principal, and I have met with the superintendent and principal of neighboring schools to seek solutions but none have been forthcoming. We have worked with law enforcement but they are understaffed and cannot be present throughout the day or even consistently at dismissal times. Moreover, individual parishioners have contacted the mayor and other offices but little has changed. We looked into the presence of a security guard but such a guard, beyond the financial cost, can do little more than we have done in calling the police.
Taking the advice of our principal, who is privy to these specific problems during the school day, we proposed the erection of a fence around the field that connects to the school. Our parish Pastoral Council discussed this proposal throughout 2018. Aware of concerns about aesthetics and accessibility, the Pastoral Council concluded that, while we do not want a fence, we believe it is necessary. I concur with that sentiment.
A six foot, tasteful, black chain link fence will be erected in the affected areas in July. This will end most of the negative interactions we’ve been experiencing during the school day and result in much greater safety for students and teachers within the fenced area. The fence will have magnetic locks at various entrances that can let us lock down the field during school hours for the safety of our kids and authorized sports practices outside of school hours. Fobs will be issued to coaches that will grant them and their teams entrance for practices. Our IT Director, Brandon Odom, will also program the gates to be open for games and designated times for general and public use of the track by parishioners and neighbors. We have tried to come up with a solution that will address a myriad of problems and address the needs of all involved parties. Please reach out and give Brandon Odom helpful feedback and suggestions for public use times for the track.
We will continue to look at ways to increase safety and security on the campus, including an examination of the trees and lines of sight. We have a beautiful campus for our students to enjoy. With the addition of the fence, we will have the added protection of discouraging trespassers. Many people have fences around their yards and lock their doors at night to protect what is most cherished: Their children and families. That is our same motivation. I greatly appreciate the discussion and feedback provided by our Pastoral Council, school principal, and other parishioners. After much prayer and consideration, I agree it is the right thing to do.
Father Damien Cook